Aging in Today’s Cuba

Osmel Almaguer 

Photo by Agnese Sanvito

Seeing my grandfather still kicking at the ripe old age of 93, while continuing to maintain my grandmother and two of my uncles who don’t work, is no less than a source of pride – though also worrisome.

My grandfather, who in reality is my mother’s stepfather, has always been skilled and enterprising in terms of business.  That’s why when he realized that he didn’t have the strength that he did before, he decided to substitute the crops he’d been growing on his property for fruit-bearing trees, since this would allow him to more easily harvest the yield and sell it nearby.

He goes up the hill three times a day, carrying the most weight that his weakened shoulders can support.  He sells his merchandise and comes back to a home that — for him — is far from being one, because there he doesn’t receive the most basic respect that he deserves.

My grandmother and uncles treat him like useless junk.  He receives the worst portions of food, the yelling and incomprehension of my grandmother, the mockery of my uncles, and what’s worse still, they don’t recognize his effort in maintaining the family under such conditions.

Now it turns out that what’s eaten in this house is supposedly the result of the efforts of my uncles, who do little more than sleep all the time.  In fact, their only daily accomplishment is managing to stay awake more than a few hours.

The reason for my pride is quite obvious, but what worries me is the fate of my family.  What will happen when my grandfather no longer has the energy to get out and make a living?  If he’s already getting insulted right now, when they should be venerating him, I’m sure that when it comes time for him to receive what he has been giving for so long, he’ll be pushed back into some corner, forgotten.

Another thing I worry about — thinking now in general — is the aging of the Cuban population and that contradiction between our long life expectancies and our Third World economy.

Who will sustain this aged country lacking technology?  Currently the government has risen the retirement age by five years.

One thought on “Aging in Today’s Cuba

  • you are asking two different questions. Aging as with all countries is hopefully supported on a continuim of services, the best always being in one’s home. However you have clouded the question of agining with your own particular circumstances. Is your grandfather competent? Is he aware of his lifestyle choice as in the way he is living? Does he want to continue living with your grandmother? Does he allow the uncles to live like this? Is it a house that belongs to him or all of them..this lifestyle has nothing to do with aging but it appears to be relative to some family dysfunction.

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